Collagen is one of the latest fads that make the rounds of the health food field. Various claims are made for it, but what does science say are the benefits of taking collagen?
Generally, it is one of the most frequently found proteins in your body. It is basically the foundation for your hair, skin, and nails. It’s something your body makes on its own, so some people say there’s no real reason to take collagen supplements. But as you age, your body makes less and less collagen on its own. Science shows supplementing with collagen can have some pretty good benefits.
A polypeptide, collagen consists of a mixture of amino acids that your body uses wherever they’re needed. Some of the places they’re used include skin, cartilage, bone, and connective tissue. When you take a collagen supplement, your body breaks it down into amino acids in your digestive system. The body doesn’t absorb collagen whole. In fact, taking a collagen supplement may stimulate your body to begin making more of it.
And it appears to have a number of benefits for your health. Here are a few of them.
Quite a bit of research has been conducted looking at collagen and what it does for your body. Most of this research is the kind that gives genuinely accurate results that can be trusted. This isn’t true of most supplements that people take.
As you age, you begin seeing more wrinkles and dry skin. Some of the reason for the wrinkles is a breakdown of natural collagen in the skin. Research has shown collagen to be beneficial in improving the appearance of wrinkles and making skin more elastic (1). Other research has shown similar results including restoring moisture to the skin, reversed sagging, and made stretch marks less visible (2, 3).
In two double-blind, placebo-controlled studies, the most scientific type of study, researchers found collagen peptide supplementation for eight weeks resulted in skin moisture being improved by 12%, collagen density increase of 9%, and collagen fragmentation decrease of 31.2% compared to placebo group.
A recent study (4) examined how taking a collagen supplement affected collagen peptides found in the skin. Sixty-nine women participated in the study for eight weeks. The ages of the women fell into the range of 35-55. At the end of the eight weeks, the woman who took the collagen supplement had significant differences in elasticity of the skin compared to the women who took a placebo.
The older women in the group showed the most improvement. Possibly, this finding was due to their bodies not producing as much collagen due to age, thus giving them more room for improvement.
An important side note to this research: These changes in the participants’ skin were seen only when hydrolyzed collagen was used. This type of collagen is easier to digest, absorbed better by the body, and the amino acids in the collagen are distributed more evenly through the body. It is more bioavailable, more readily used by your body.
Ladies, there are few things more detrimental to your feeling of well-being, beauty-wise, than having a broken nail. If you don’t have a chance to file it down, it seems to hang up on everything all day.
You can relax. Research has shown collagen supplements to be good for your nails. Studies have shown it will strengthen your nails and make them less likely to break (5). Daily taking collagen peptide supplements for 24 weeks led to an increase in nail growth of 12%, a 42% decrease in broken nails, and an overall improvement of 64% in previously brittle nails. Eighty-eight percent of the women participating in this study showed this improvement in only four weeks.
Collagen VI, one type of collagen, has been shown to have some preventive effect on the development of Alzheimer’s disease (6). One of the apparent causes of Alzheimer’s is the formation of amyloid-beta proteins, a type of amino acid that clumps together to form the plaques that are found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.
Collagen protects the brain from these amyloid-beta proteins. A side finding of importance in this study was that collagen VI is made by brain neurons. One possibility exists that, again due to aging, the neurons don’t make enough of this type of collagen, so supplementation can be valuable in preventing the development of Alzheimer’s.
Research has shown taking collagen supplements reduces back pain (7). This study involved 200 human subjects given either 1,200 mg of collagen daily or a placebo. All 200 of the subjects were over the age of 50 and suffered from upper or lower back pain.
After six months, more than 20% of the subjects in the collagen group experienced a reduction in back pain after taking collagen daily.
Everyone understand that athletes experience pain in their knees and joints as a result of their athletic endeavors. But many people have this kind of pain for different reasons, as well. Collagen has been shown to help resolve knee and joint pain (8). This first study was conducted with college athletes and indicated activity-related joint pain to be reduced by collagen intake.
Another study (9) investigated the use of collagen supplementation for osteoarthritis. Compared to a placebo and to glucosamine hydrochloride and chondroitin sulfate, the collagen decreased pain from osteoarthritis in the knee joint.
One of the major causes of heart disease is a build up of plaque in the arteries. This plaque has been associated with increased cholesterol. Some research (10) has indicated collagen to be able to lower cholesterol and prevent the build up in the arteries that can develop into the plaques that raise the risk of heart disease.
Collagen appears to lower the ratio of LDL to HDL cholesterol in the blood. A higher ration of these two types of cholesterol increases the risk of heart disease. The development of plaques that lead to heart problems was also prevented by taking collagen supplements.
Leaky gut develops in the intestine when poor food choices and other conditions cause the cells that line the intestine to become more permeable. This allows undigested food particles, viruses, bacteria, and fungi to cross from the gut into the blood stream. The result is a triggering of the immune response, which can lead to autoimmune diseases, and body-wide inflammation. Inflammatory bowel disease is one potential and painful condition that can result.
Some research (11) has shown people with inflammatory bowel disease to have low levels of collagen IV. It would appear that collagen supplementation may have a beneficial effect on leaky gut and inflammatory bowel disease, but more research is needed in these areas.
Inflammation has been shown to be at the root of many chronic illnesses, including many psychological conditions such as depression. Glycine has been shown to decrease both local and systemic inflammation. Glycine is an amino acid found in gelatin and hydrolyzed collagen.
Studies have shown glycine’s ability to fight inflammation, along with other benefits of this amino acid (12, 13). Glycine appears to inhibit inflammation by not allowing macrophages to be expressed and by fighting the formation of free radicals and inflammatory cytokines, another type of pro-inflammatory cell.
Glycine has been shown to be very effective in promoting good health and in supporting well-being in both humans and animals.
It appears science has proven the usefulness of collagen in improving health conditions. Both as a preventative measure and as a treatment for several serious and sometimes chronic health problems.
Even though your body makes its own collagen, the use of collagen supplementation may be beneficial for overall health. It is important to be sure to take the right kind of supplements in order to get the most beneficial effect from supplementation.
The need for supplementation increases as you age. Since your body produces less collagen naturally with age, supplementing is advisable. In addition, certain lifestyle choices made at any age can have a detrimental effect on collagen production. Dietary choices, stress, and poor gut health brought on by these choices can all interfere with the production of sufficient collagen at any age.
It is also important to take vitamin C with the collagen supplements in order to get enough of this vitamin so that collagen can be produced.
Armed with this information backed by science, you now are able to make informed decisions regarding the use of collagen supplements to benefit your health
1. The effect of oral collagen peptide supplementation on skin moisture and the dermal collagen network: evidence from an ex vivo model and randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26362110
2. Oral intake of specific bioactive collagen peptides reduces skin wrinkles and increases dermal matrix synthesis. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24401291
3. The effect of oral collagen peptide supplementation on skin moisture and the dermal collagen network: evidence from an ex vivo model and randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26362110
4. Oral supplementation of specific collagen peptides has beneficial effects on human skin physiology: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23949208
5. Oral supplementation with specific bioactive collagen peptides improves nail growth and reduces symptoms of brittle nails. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28786550
6. Collagen May Help Protect Brain Against Alzheimer’s Disease https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081210150713.htm
7. Effect of collagen hydrolysate in articular pain: a 6-month randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22500661
8. 24-Week study on the use of collagen hydrolysate as a dietary supplement in athletes with activity-related joint pain. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18416885 9. Efficacy and tolerability of an undenatured type II collagen supplement in modulating knee osteoarthritis symptoms: a multicenter randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study https://nutritionj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12937-016-0130-8?utm_campaign=B2B+Website&utm_medium=email&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-8boAuPkblnh0HOMhfQk